Christopher Smith

Restoring The Penobscot: Good News

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PenobscotAn important step was taken in restoring fish populations in the Penobscot River in Maine this week with the removal of the Veazie Dam.

The Penobscot Indians have been fighting to eliminate barriers to fish that used to migrate from the Atlantic Ocean into the the river system in Maine. Tearing down the dam will allow species such as Alewives, Salmon, Shad and freer access of other species such as to 1,000 miles of waterways.

Restoring the Penobscot

There was an ongoing battle that has been fought for years over this issue. The Penobscot Tribe wanted to restore the tradition fishing grounds that allowed migrations of these important fish. There was concern that allowing alewives into the rivers would harm smallmouth bass populations due to the alewives feeding on nests of smallmouth bass. On the other side of the coin, some people felt that this change would provide smallmouth bass with more forage and actually increase the size and numbers of smallmouth bass.

Learn about the historic role of the Penobscot and the unique partnership that has made restoration possible:

Forage for smallmouth bass

Banks had a true fish story to tell which he said illustrates the importance of the river restoration and the connectedness of the environment. “I went fishing last night upriver from here and I caught at least 60 small mouth bass and every one of those bass had young alewives in them,” Banks said. “They’d be shaking when they came out of the water and the alewives went flying out of their mouths! They’re literally gorging themselves with these young alewives that are a direct result of this project.” That’s because the Nation has been stocking the lakes with alewives to get a jumpstart on the river project, he said. “The alewives are called a keystone species because they’re so good for the whole ecology of the river. Two out of 1,000 alewives are needed to keep the run self sustaining. That means 998 are available for birds, eagles, osprey and other game fish like smallmouth bass – everything is linked.”   Source

As can be seen in the article, smallmouth bass are opportunistic feeders and it is most likely that the awelwives will help the bass population and create a healthier river.

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